ZOOMING AWAY: Despite challenges, spirit of the Octagon remains strong

Trying to come up with something meaningful to sum up my high school experience and say goodbye to this chapter of my life has not been easy — especially after sitting in isolation for over two months. My spirits right now are hardly high.

So I thought I’d start with a few highlights of the past years.

As freshmen, Emma and I decided to bake a five-layer cake to cement our friendship, then proceeded to place it in the freshman quad for our classmates to enjoy. And, boy, did they ever. We came back at the end of the day to find the inside of the cake destroyed as students walked up and took handfuls right out of the middle. It was then I learned that high schoolers turn gross for cake.

The bed-to-student ratio at the dude ranch on the sophomore trip was 1-to-1. But after Larkin saw a spider in one of the beds, I proceeded to tear the room apart in a futile effort to kill it. I was unsuccessful, and no one would sleep in the room. So I spent that night in a single bed tucked between Emma and Jewel. It was quite possibly the worst night’s sleep of my life, but at least we got some quality snuggle time.

In our junior year, Emma and I tested how many cups of coffee we could drink in a day during our class trip to Ashland, Oregon. We made it to 10 before we were too nauseated and shaky to continue. We hit almost every coffee shop within walking distance.

My memories of senior year have been the best: from hiding with Jewel behind the lost-and-found during our 2 a.m. game of hide-and-seek at the senior sleepover, to running a lap around the back field in the dead of night to break up the endless hours of paste-up (the week in which we design each Octagon issue).

Despite all of these memorable experiences, when head of high school Brooke Wells announced the beginning of online learning on March 13, what I fixated on most was not being away from my friends and classmates, but what we would do about the sixth issue of the Octagon.

After five chaotic and exhausting paste-ups, I think the staff felt that we’d finally found our groove. Stories had been written on time, and most of the pages just needed finishing touches. I thought we’d be out of there by 4 p.m.

But the rug had been pulled from under our feet. All of a sudden, our planned front-page coronavirus story was out of date. And what relevance did the spring sports page have now that all competitions were canceled? Should we even spend the $1,000 to print the issue if no one would be at school next Tuesday to receive it?

These questions were, of course, answered, and the stories quickly modified. The issue was sent to the printer as usual, just not with the early finish we’d pictured.

What I find ironic is that the smooth issue in which everything went as planned, which we had been ferociously working toward all year, never took form.

Just the Thursday before, I remember sitting in the Cave chatting about how awesome the next two issues would be now that we could finally finish one smoothly. Boy, were we wrong!

No, these last two issues have not been easy or smooth, and certainly not as fun as those six we had in-person.

But for me, the spirit of the Octagon is still shining through.

We now have multi-hour Zoom paste-ups with the same teamwork and silly jokes.

After sending in issue seven, the page editors had our traditional dance party to “Ravers Fantasy,” each in our own home over Zoom. I think we listened to it three times.

My experience with the Octagon has had its highs and lows. (I’ve certainly thought about quitting a time or two.) But now more than ever, I’ve realized how much it’s meant to me.

I’ve grown as a writer and editor; I’ve learned how to design pages and edit photos; I’ve become a leader and found my voice. And I’ve realized how much fun hard work and dedication can be. After putting 50 hours into a paste-up week, that feeling of absolute pride, joy and camaraderie makes it all worth it.

By Anna Frankel

Originally published in the May 26 edition of the Octagon.

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